This Saturday saw the first game of the year for Pennine Megagame. Jonathon Pickles gave us ’Cockroaches, Copper and Cows’ based on the Mexican Revolution of 1913. Set in the world of Pancho Villa and the film ‘The Wild Bunch’, I have to admit it is something I know nothing about.
Unlike most megagames that I have seen that have the players, representing different historical characters, organised into teams in advance CCC only had a few players in a single team at the start of play. The remainder were free agents who could form join or leave as many teams (representing different competing political parties) as they wanted over the course of the day, this was one part of the game I was a bit unsure of as I’d not seen it done before. The individual briefings that each player got outlined their characters background and political orientations; the onus was on the players to get out there and talk to each other and find common goals and form parties/ teams around that. To facilitate this the half hour turn was split into two parts: the first fifteen minutes was the time that players could act on the map. Moving their guerrilla base, attacking and capturing facilities, making money and fighting each other, the second half of the turn was where the players could move about and talk to each other and hold conventions where they were assumed to be meeting up face to face. It was at these conventions that players could help each other build up support (a logarithmic scale that represented a mixture of political following and military might that was the key statistic for the players and also try sneaky things like assassination.
My role for the day was to run one of the 7 maps that made up Mexico, mine was the very north east of the country up by the Texan border. It was a simple role really. I had to monitor the actions of the players as they took their turns. In the early stages of the game the players were finding their feet and expanding their territory on the map trying to get the best resources nailed down under their control whilst sounding out nearby players for their character’s political leanings. Some of the resources were oil plants or other industrial/ economic sites that were run by American companies. Trying to take these over had the potential to cause a minor diplomatic incident, taking them over completely and kicking out the Americans altogether had the potential to really anger the Americans. In fact, the first invasion of Mexico was at Vera Cruz to secure American interest. Those players who had angered the American had to pay reparations and make a public apology.
North East Mexico at the start of the game.
The players on my map were quite civil, they were happy to fight the federales for territories to capture but were reticent to fight each other early on. This changed towards the second half of the game as they joined parties and coordinated their activity with what was going on other tables. Rail road links to border towns and ports being vital to generate large amounts of income as goods sold there were worth double.
Pickles had a very nice and simple mechanism to limit the number of actions at the map that each player could make. Apart from a few free actions, anything major that the players did gained them a fatigue marker, to take any action after the first they had to pay $10 per fatigue marker that they had. Consequently, taking more than four actions was very rare.
To keep the players informed on what was going wrong Becky bravely took and the role of three different papers, one revolutionary, one reactionary, one American and published an A4 page a turn. Some of which I’ve reproduced here with her permission; go check out here rather good blog here: http://www.beckybeckyblogs.com/ it has loads of megagame material on there and much more besides including some great recipes. This became especially important as elections were being held to put up a president and stabilse the country towards the end of the game.
About to look for arms on a cross border raid- what could go wrong?
In a bold display of obstinance and nationalism one of the players on my table, Tes, decided to raid across the border to the American town of Laredo in search of arms. This brought Tim over to my table, he was plumpiring all the different American interests in the game and accordingly was wearing four character cards pinned to him. This time he was ‘Black Jack Pershing’ leading a punitive expedition to get the guns back. Combat between players was done by a card-based system, both player put down a card with a numerical value and the added it to their support rating, highest winning; the cards had different suits and they could cancel out some or none of the other suits. In such cases it was an instant victory. Given the might of the US army Tes was lucky to get this result with her first combat. At this point I mentioned to Tim that he needs to do enough in the raid to get a tank named after him… Although after this Tes wasn’t so lucky losing heavily. The US advanced just into Mexico and occupied Nuevo Laredo. A couple of turns later Tes decided to push her luck and appropriate an American run oil field. This time the US forces launched a big raid deep into Mexico to bring her to justice.
The results of America’s punitive raid after the seizure of an American oil field.
Whilst this was going on a vicious back and forth battle erupted between a Zapatist player and a Constitutionalist for control of a couple of key road junctions, both were needed by the players respective parties to get goods out of the country. Using all manner of artillery, machine guns and even armoured trains; the fighting went on for a couple of turns.
The game was wound up with an election, often a bad way to end a game as it produces a clear “winner”, something that megagames usually try to avoid, partly as there would be nothing to argue about in the pub afterwards. However, in this situation if seemed right. The constitutionalists were put in office and the American observers declared it free and fair so the result stuck. This wound up a great days gaming, it was a good game to umpire and the players seemed to really engage with it putting paid to my early reservations.
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